Pseudo-Secularism

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Friday, September 23, 2005

A critique of National Curriculum Framework--2005

A devise to alienate young India
By Prof. Bal Apte, MP

The present exercise of framing National Curriculum Framework (NCF) has negated the logical process for doing this. The logical process goes through four stages: i) The NCF is formulated and put in place; ii) In consonance syllabi are framed; iii) Books are commissioned and written, consistent with syllabi framed according to NCF; iv) The curriculum becomes operative. Here, it is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. This shows that the exercise is tainted with malafides, which are writ large on it:

1.

It began with the examination of the NCFSE (NCF for school education)--2000 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by the present Minister for HRD. He had his own experts to condemn it, but could not produce a report.

2.

Some friendly litigants went to the Supreme Court challenging the NCFSE-2000 on two counts
1) The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was not constituted and consulted;
2) The rubric of secularism was violated. The Supreme Court rejected both the challenges with a categorical judgment (Aruna Roy u/s Union (2002 7Scc 368).

Even before they started work, ‘new’ books on History and Social Science were introduced for the academic year 2005-06; the same books that ruled between 1966 and 1992, were now bandied as under NCFSE-2000! These books are full of errors, prejudices and insults to every community; but, as they say, ‘that’s another story’. The points framed and rejected were:

1) The respondents, that is the Government have not sought the approval of the CABE to the National Curriculum Framework for school education and without obtaining the approval of CABE, NCFSE cannot be implemented.

2) NCFSE, i.e., the national curriculum and the syllabi framed thereunder are unconstitutional as the same are violative of the rubric of secularism, which is part of the basic structure of our Constitution.

‘Secularist’ crowd was disappointed. Probably they want the Supreme Court orders to justify their secularism, when it is convenient, but they want to ignore the Supreme Court orders when it is not convenient to their kind of secularism.

On change of government, the Ministry of Human Resource Development issued the fateful order of June 12, 2004. By this order a panel of historians was appointed to recommend ‘removing distorted and communally biased portions’ of history text books because of their ‘communalisation and inadequacies.’ The order began with the conclusion regarding communalisation and appointed certain persons as ‘experts’ with a direction to them as to what they should do. It is apparent that the order is vitiated because of its prejudice, prejudgment and ideological myopia.

This was accompanied by commissioning of Syllabus Committees.

And even before they started work ‘new’ books on History and Social Science were introduced for the academic year 2005-06; the same books that ruled between 1966 and 1992, were now bandied as under NCFSE-2000! These books are full of errors, prejudices and insults to every community; but, as they say, ‘that’s another story’.

So, now, NCERT and CABE are expected to put in a command performance.

Now, the draft NCF gives expression to several of the common concerns expressed by everybody and every commission or committee, at least, for the last 40 years. This is in the nature of lip service, because they will not be addressed for the lack of political will both for resources and implementation:

1. Removal of burden and stress on children.
2. Common school system to ensure that children of different background study together.
3. Mother tongue is the best medium of instruction.
4. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).
5. Flexible school timings.
6. Books and reference materials availability.
7. Examination reforms; typology of questions; replace memorising.
8. Transparency and internal assessment.
9. Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE).
10. Work-centred education and vocationalisation.

Of these, the first three will never be achieved because of a moribund approach to the minority rights under Article 30 of the Constitution. It is high time we appreciated this.

There are certain wider implications which I want to point out and those implications are, why is this protection to the minorities? Ultimately, if the society is to be a society as a whole, then this protection to the minorities should lead to the integration of all the sections of the society and, then, I have to point out two things. One is, the international document which talks about minority rights, particularly the last declaration, namely, the Declaration of the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992. Incidentally, our country does not have any national or ethnic minorities. We are one people, but we have religious and linguistic minorities. But, in a preamble to this Declaration, what the United Nations says is, “Emphasising that the constant promotion and realisation of the rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, linguistics, religious minorities as an integral part of the development of society as a whole.” So, protection of minorities is an integral part of the development of the society as a whole. If we continue to segregate everything, are we going to achieve that? That is one question on the basis of this.

It is very essential that at the school level right from primary stage, deliberate, planned and sustained efforts are made to inculcate basic human values among the students. Values are best initiated by a mother to her small child under her tender care in the secure atmosphere of home.


We have two reports. One is by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, issued in September, 2001, where it suggests that the education system should not just be fair to minorities. They should promote a spirit of equality and tolerance among ethnic and cultural groups. Then, there is a report on minority rights in education in Estonia, Latvia, Romania and Macedonia. It is concluded that learning apart does not encourage living together and that, there is a danger of a strictly mono-lingual, mono-religious, mono-cultural or even mono-racial approach leading to ghettoisation of minorities.

Looking from the national perspective, while talking only about minority rights, we must consider that ultimately we don´t want the minorities to be ghettoized, but it should be a matter of equality and tolerance among all the communities. Thus a perverted sense of secularism has thwarted basic education principles being operational.

Looking from the national perspective, I believe, while talking only about minority rights, we must consider that ultimately we don’t want the minorities to be ghettoized, but it should be a matter of equality and tolerance among all the communities. Thus a perverted sense of secularism has thwarted basic education principles being operational.

In so far as the ECCE is concerned, when education was made a Fundamental Right for children in the age-group of 6 to 14, by the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, ECCE was sought to be achieved by redrafting Article 45 and adding clause(K) to Article 51A providing for Fundamental Duties. But nothing more has happened in this area, thereafter.

Be that as it may, the real question is about core concerns:

A. Why education? The signature of NCERT says "Education achieves life´s fulfillment. How? Education should mould a proud citizen, a patriotic citizen, a socially committed citizen, a citizen respecting and following the core values of human life. For this education has to be value-based."

This objective has no place in the proposed NCF. While doing this, the NCF has contravened the mandate of both:

i) The National Policy of Education 1986 (NEP) which still holds the field, and

ii) The judgment of the Supreme Court approving the NCFSE.

This was followed by the Parliamentary Committee headed by Shri S.B. Chavan which submitted its 81st Report on Value-based Education to Rajya Sabha on February 26, 1999. An extract of the report is self explanatory. (It is quoted by the Supreme Court with approval):

8. Truth (satya), righteous conduct (dharma), peace (shanti), Love (prema) and non-violence (ahimsa) are the core universal values which can be identified as the foundation stone on which the value-based education programme can be built up. These five are indeed universal values and respectively represent the five domains of human personality, intellectual, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. They also are correspondingly co-related with the five major objectives of education, namely, knowledge, skill, balance, vision and identity.

9. Primary school stage is the period in child’s life when seed of value-education can be implanted in his/her impressionable mind in a very subtle way. If this seed is nurtured by the capable hands of dedicated teachers in school, if they insert values at appropriate intervals during a child’s life, it can be easily said that half the battle in building up national character has been won.

10. It is very essential that at the school level, right from primary stage, deliberate planned and sustained efforts are made to inculcate basic human values among the students. Values are best initiated by a mother to her child under her tender care in the secure atmosphere of home. However, nowadays, children are enrolled in school as early as at the age of four. At this impressionable stage, values like respect for parents, elders and teachers, truth, punctuality, cleanliness and courtesy can be easily inculcated in children. They can also be sensitised regarding gender equality.

11. Besides the personal values, there are certain social values which ought to be imbibed by the young mind. These are the values about the whole community´s concern for the aged and the handicapped, for the deprived sections of the society etc. Sincere belief in the dignity of labour is generally found to be lacking in our young generation. Values of self-dependence and insistence on doing manual labour are thus required to be impressed upon children.

12. In view of the diverse character of our country, it is essential that certain national values are also imbibed by our young students. They should be acquainted with the history of India’s freedom struggle, cultural heritage, constitutional obligations and the features comprising our national identity. The Committee feels that some of these national values can be imparted indirectly at the primary stage while at the middle and secondary level, these can be included in the curriculum.

13. Another aspect that must be given some thought is religion, which is the most misused and misunderstood concept. The process of making the students acquainted with the basics of all religions, the values inherent therein and also a comparative at the middle stage in schools and continue up to the university level. Students have to be made aware that the basic concept behind every religion is common, only the practices differ. Even if there are differences of opinion in certain areas, people have to learn to co-exist and carry no hatred against any religion.

14. One should never forget that all the values are derived from ultimate reality—supreme power or self-consciousness-to which man orients himself.”

In this context it is relevant to refer to the UNESCO´s Department for Intercultural Dialogue and Plurarism, for a culture of peace, which pleads for “spiritual convergence” and proposes to promote dialogue among the different religious and spiritual traditions in the world where intra and inter-religious conflicts have become the order of the day. (January 2000)

All this now bears the stamp of authority of the Supreme

Court in its decision in the case of Aruna Roy v/s Union referred to earlier.

B. The Draft NCF also ignores Fundamental Duties which, according to the report of the committee headed by J.S. Verma CJI (Retd.), must form an integral part of education. Even the NEP-1986 emphasised this.

C. Sanskrit is a language included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. It is dubbed as a classical language and is bracketed with Arabic and Persian. This is wholly illogical and again contrary to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Santosh Kumar (1994) 6SCC579. The draft NCF effectively discourages the study of Sanskrit, which really is the, ‘Treasure Within.’

D. Yoga is relegated to a kind of physical exercise, when the world is recognising it as a panacea for total mental, physical, intellectual, spiritual Health. This again is contrary to NEP-1986.

It is essential that certain national values are also imbibed by our young students. They should be acquainted with the history of India’s freedom struggle, cultural heritage, constitutional obligations and the features comprising our national identity.

E. The secularism of the draft NCF is allergic to spiritualism. It ought to be noted that the need for spiritualism for peace and harmony is being recognised by the world. Apart from the UNESCO document referred to above another UNESCO report titled Treasure Within also talks about spiritualism and spiritual quotient (apart from Intelligence quotient and Emotional quotient) ‘SQ with IQ & EQ’. The report came in 1996. Preparatory to meeting the challenge of globalisation and global disparities, in so far as education was concerned, UNESCO established in 1993, the International Commission on Education for 21st century, headed by Shri Jacques Delors with 14 other members, including Dr. Karan Singh. This report talks of spiritualism.

The secularism of the draft NCF is allergic to spiritualism. It ought to be noted that the need for spiritualism for peace and harmony is being recognised by the world. Apart from the UNESCO document referred to above another UNESCO report titled Treasure Within also talks about spiritualism and Spiritual Quotient (apart from Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Quotient) ‘SQ with IQ & EQ’.

F. “Minimum Levels of Learning” were aimed at by the NCFSE-2000 which again was the objective of NEP-1986. The Draft here drops the objective altogether on the spacious ground that is impracticable.

G. The NEP-1986 insists that the new generations can not be permitted to break away from their roots of ancient Indian History and Culture. The draft NCF talks only of the present and the future. They want a generation of alienated youngsters.

H. This a-national approach of the framers of NCF, whose ideology believes in regimentation, makes any reference to decentralisation incongruous. Therefore when the draft talks about decentralisation of book writing, one tends not to take it seriously. One last point: If you want to tamper, you may but at least do not victimise somebody because you do not like him.

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